No doubt, Abe's policies have caused stirrings both internally and externally. The Wind Rises, which was written and animated by the legendary Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, is the cinematographic embodiment of what many anti-militarists fear: "At its core, The Wind Rises is about what happens when people forsake what really matters when pursuing their goals. 'Jiro dreams of flight, and his dreams are often dragged to the ground by the corruption of real life,' says Kelts. 'It's as if Miyazaki wants to drive home the harsh difference between the two; the tragic near-impossibility of combining dreams and reality, and of living in both. If you choose one, you sacrifice the other.' Japan dreams of taking on a larger role in the realm of East Asian security; to more proactively take on challenges poised by North Korea and China. Most importantly, it is bucking against restrictive norms which have separated it from a fundamental right afforded to other nations: autonomous self-defense. The ignored reality, according to anti-militarists, is the perpetuation of ignorance about Japan's imperialist past and role in numerous atrocities during the Showa period. Moreover, it is a move which will further destabilize order in Japan's neighborhood. Japan will militarize, then China will escalate, then Japan will up the ante again, and so on until a tipping point is reached.
Outside of Japan, other nations have bristled in response to Abe's ambitions. Anti-Japanese protests, which have been fanned by Beijing, have exploded throughout China in correlation with extremely negative views of Japan. South Korea backed out of a landmark intelligence sharing pact negotiated by the United States in response to Japanese actions which were perceived to be aggressive by Seoul. No doubt, there is definitely a large degree of animosity towards Japan's imperialistic past, which has been all but acknowledged by Tokyo. In December of last year, Shinzo Abe visited a notorious memorial dedicated to Japanese soldiers, including war criminals. He has questioned the use of comfort women by Imperial leaders to improve the morale of Japanese soldiers during World War Two. By all accounts, his tenure has not been defined by a large concern with Public Relations outside of Japan.
At the same time, it was inevitable that Japan would eventually seek to expand its ability to utilize military force. Even before Shinzo Abe's surprising political resurrection, his predecessor sought to improve Japan's capacity for armed conflict. During Naoto Kan's time as Prime Minister, he presided over the operational concept entitled 'Dynamic Defense'. The policy began to reorganize Japan's Self-Defense Forces as a more flexible entity capable of rapidly reacting to aggression in the Northeast (China and North Korea). In a global system characterized by anarchy, nations generally wish to maximize their own security and capabilities relative to other states. With America's global presence declining, China becoming more bellicose, and regional status quo's viability in question, it should come as no surprise that Japan has taken strides to improve its security architecture.
Mr. Abe has quickly build upon this foundation. In 2013, he created a National Security Council to synthesize political and military agents in order to improve the efficiency of Japan's military. In the same year, he also approved the creation of an amphibious assault unit analogous to the Royal or American marines in order to solidify Japan's ability to defend and retake captured islands. However, despite these advancements, it appears that more reforms will likely be on the way.
According to James Fanell, commander of intelligence at PACOM, China is preparing for a short, sharp war with Japan to seize the Senkaku Islands. Not only that, but Chinese officials seem confident in their ability to do just that. Earlier this year, Lee Fuell testified in front Congress that China believes it could achieve military victory in Asia without inciting American military reprisal. This perception is rooted in the purported belief within Chinese foreign policy practicisioners that America would not respond short of a direct attack against our assets. This may seem like a silly proposition, but many China experts in America propose that we should intervene in such a conflict. Thusly, regardless if do respond or not, such a perception impacts the policies of Japan, China, and other nations in Asia. Because states cannot solely rely on others for aid, it becomes imperative for Japanese strategists that a unilateral capability is developed.
Even if America does decide to intervene, China still possesses the capability to inflict a substantial of damage against facilities in the region. In a 2009 RAND report, China managed to neuter America's regional capabilities and established air superiority over Taiwan. Joel Brenner proposed a different hypothetical, where America refused to respond to Chinese provocations after Beijing held our electrical grid hostage through the threat of cyber attacks. All of this does not bode well for Japan. There are many situations where America may be unwilling, subjugated, or unable to come to Japan's immediate defense, enabling China to ascertain territory even after negotiations. Therefore, it is likely that we will continue to see Japan increase its capabilities in the future. Currently, Japan has set forth a sizable military budget of $232.1 billion USD for the next five years, primarily focusing on amphibious, maritime, and aerial warfare.
Ultimately, Japan's militarization may come at a diplomatic cost. But in exchange for significant gains in security, these policies may be worth it from Japan's perspective. In an increasingly dangerous neighborhood where territorial claims are persistent, American commitment is in question, and an unstable regime is developing missile capabilities, the ability to conduct unilateral operations is invaluable.